Tag Archive: Firenze


“Viewed by some as a nation of square-jawed robots whose language sounds like something awful in the drains, whose cars outperform all others and whose football team seldom loses, the Germans seem unassailable.” – Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans

How does Almost DailyBrett square the ingrained stereotype of the industrious unsmiling Germans with the idea of München with its famous umlaut being a romantic venue for newlyweds?

My beautiful Fraulein Jeanne — now lovely Frau Jeanne — was more than curious, if not downright skeptical — when she first heard your author’s suggestion about beginning our August 2015 honeymoon in München or how the Yanks spell it, Munich.

Besides the romance of summertime beer gardens, wine bars, outdoor markets, jaw-dropping churches, great shopping and Medieval cobble-stone streets, München is perfectly located in the geographical center of Europe.

Why is that important? Jeanne also wanted to visit artistic Florence, Italy for a week as part of our honeymoon. Kein Problem.

Germany is indeed das Land in der Mitte (or the country in the middle of Europe), and München is a great place to have a Wunderbare time in Germany.

Consider the difference between fun-loving Bavarians in the south, and the image of goose-stepping, monocle-sporting Prussians to the north.

Bavaria with its story-book fairy-tale towns (e.g., Rothenburg ob der Tauber), its snow-capped majestic Alps, Mad King Ludwig’s castles and traditional folk in lederhosen and dirndls is very familiar to most Americans.

There was also the lure of Neuschwanstein (Disneyphiles instinctively know this castle), which was a must see for our Honeymoon. Mad King Ludwig’s most famous of his four castles belongs on anyone’s Bucket List.

The Best European Point of Entry

There are very few words in the English language more frightening than … Heathrow.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

London Heathrow airport code (LHR) ranks up there with Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD) or New York’s Kennedy (JFK) as the most desultory, frustrating and disorganized airports in the world.

When you land at Heathrow, nine times out of 10 there is no jetway. Instead, you walk down the stairs to a waiting bus to take you across the tarmac to the terminal … and then up another flight of stairs to baggage reclaim, customs and the transit hall.

Travelers to Europe have alternatives for the continent’s initial point of entry: Frankfurt (FRA) or Paris (CDG) with their own individual horror stories.

Just as important, if one pulls out a map of Europe, München lies right smack dab in the middle.

Instead of flying to jammed Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle or Frankfurt, ultra-modern Munich (MUC) offers immediate air transfer or high-speed rail connections to all points on the continent, and quick and efficient subway ties to downtown München.

One can arrive at the MUC airport and literallybe  drinking beer at the Augustiner Keller (founded by the Augustinian monks in 1328) in downtown München one hour later. Trust Almost DailyBrett: It can be much Wurst, arriving and enduring other airports.

An American traveler may be inclined to make the obvious observation that English is spoken at London’s Heathrow or Gatwick. The argument: Why not start a honeymoon or any vacation in Europe at a venue that speaks your own language, English, the world’s Lingua Franca?

Many make this choice, and who can blame them? Almost DailyBrett, an admitted Germanophile with nearly 10 visits (lost count) to München for business and holiday, urges travelers to live a little and experience different cultures and languages. Even though English and German are related Germanic languages with about 25 percent of their combined vocabularies serving as cognates, Deutsch is totally different and distinct with its own (cringe) difficult grammar rules.

Keep in mind that English is compulsory in the German schools. With few exceptions they can speak your language, but can you speak any German? Knowing a few German words and even trying to speak their language — before asking them if they speak English — is more times than naught appreciated in München and other towns in Germany.

Will you make mistakes with the language? Natürlich.

For Jeanne and yours truly our honeymoon consisted of two languages and cultures: Bavarian dialect German (e.g., Grüss Gott instead of Guten Tag for the standard greeting) and Italian in Firenze.

We learned when it was time to ask for the check at a restaurant, it was die Rechnung bitte in Germany and il Konto prego in Italy.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with honeymooning in traditional tropical venues such as Hawaii, Mexico or the Caribbean.

However, if a loving newlywed couple is seeking a non-traditional venue to celebrate a marriage and to explore the best of storybook Europe, München is a great launching (and ending) point.

Almost DailyBrett note: Jeanne and your author are heading off for our fourth trip to Europe as a couple this summer including Paris and Salzburg. And our point of entry to the continent: München!

 

Oregon will never be confused with Tuscany.

In Tuscany, thousands wait in line for hours to check out Michelangelo’s “David.”

In contrast, somebody in Oregon is named, “David.”

In Tuscany, one can queue-up for hours to admire Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” standing in her perfect sea shell.

In Oregon, one can find sea shells at the coast, not sure about Venus.

Frances Mayes’ book, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and the movie with the same title tells the story of an American (e.g., actress Diane Lane) in search of a life change, and a little love too.

She made a totally impractical, impulsive decision. Seemingly on a whim, she bought a classic “fixer-upper” in Cortona, Tuscany and lived to talk about it. The book’s story and the heroine, who took the ultimate plunge, set off a series of similar decisions as literally hundreds of upper class Americans rushed to Central Italy to buy their own Italian villa in the sun.

Reportedly, some even asked the locals for the Italian word for “cappuccino.”

The author of Almost DailyBrett eventually made the trek to Tuscany with his new bride, Jeanne, to celebrate our honeymoon. We stayed in a 12th Century Italian villa on a bluff overlooking Il Duomo de Firenze, but we resisted the temptation to buy the Torre di Bellosguardo.

That does not mean your author is innocent when it comes to rash, impulsive decisions. In 2010, I came to Oregon at 55-years-young in search of a master’s degree, Oregon football games in the fall, and maybe a little love too.

The impulsive part comes into play when one asks: Why would a middle-age widower (being kind here) decide to buy a three-bedroom, two-bath 2,000-square-foot “tree” house for himself and his American shorthair feline, Percy?

Wouldn’t renting make more sense, particularly when one contemplates widespread academic prejudice: my chances of landing a teaching job at University of Oregon after graduation would be next to none? Renting easily made more sense, except for the George Carlin “stuff” factor.

Carlin’s comedic monologue about the never-ending acquisition of “stuff” (i.e., beds, dressers, chairs, tables, washer/dryer, fridge …) results in a predictable crisis. Can the author of Almost DailyBrett downsize from a 2,200-square-foot Monopoly (ranch-style) house in Northern California to a 1,000-square-foot apartment, and still find sufficient space for his stuff?

Let me interject right now: your author does not do orange metal doors surrounded by Berlin Bunker concrete (e.g., storage units = unintelligent loss of legal tender).

So what did all of the above make me? A displaced Californian with equity to transfer, looking for a tree house to display his stuff, and live and study as well … Under the Oregon Clouds.

Spider and The Fly

On more than one occasion, it has been questioned why would a single-at-the-time, follicly challenged mature dude acquire a 2,000-square foot house with a deck, hot tub and occasionally serving prosciutto and melon with Sangiovese? Was my Eugene house the human equivalent of a spider’s web, looking for “some little girl to fly on by” as suggested by Mick Jagger in The Spider and The Fly?

Almost DailyBrett will piously declare the primary purpose for the turn-key Eugene house with next to zero backyard maintenance was to serve as a place to study, research and finish a master’s degree in Communication and Society. The next steps were finding a full-time teaching gig. The wonderful new wife came later, even though my eyes were always surveying the horizon for both.

The aforementioned Jeanne became Mrs. Brett on her own recognizance, and yours truly was offered a doctoral fellowship to Arizona State University and a tenure track professorship at Central Washington University, taking the latter position.

What that on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand decision meant was transporting my new bride, two alley cats and our  “stuff” to a townhouse in Ellensburg, Washington and renting out the house Under the Oregon Clouds. That plan worked for two years until the renters (e.g., Stefanie and George) decided to move.

Considering that our move back to Eugene was not coming anytime soon, we made the decision to sell the house Under the Oregon Clouds. Think of it this way, a house is bricks and mortar or some variation of that theme. We can always buy another house, another day maybe with sun above. Right?

And yet, the house did not sell as the rain fell during the winter. The house Under the Oregon Clouds is quirky (e.g., it has character). It has three flights of stairs, a car-port instead of a garage (for your stuff). Das Haus ist nicht für Alles.

It did not sell. We couldn’t be happier.

Someday, we will once again visit the 12th Century Firenze villa Under the Tuscan Sun.

More importantly, we will surely move back to that special tree house Under the Oregon Clouds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Tuscan_Sun_(film)

http://www.francesmayesbooks.com/under-the-tuscan-sun/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0CSs4Nf-64

Lost my Apple 5s smart phone on Lufthansa flight #491 from Seattle to Frankfurt.

Besides being a $599 mistake, yours truly had no cell phone for the entire course of our 17-day honeymoon to Bavaria (e.g., Gemütlichkeit) and to Tuscany (e.g., Le Dolce Vita).

To more than a few the loss of a cell phone for almost three weeks would be the near equivalent of being sentenced to three years of solitary confinement or even worse, suicide. How can life possibly go on? How can my online disciples know exactly what I am doing at exactly this very point in time? Shudder: No smart phone means a world without Facebook “likes” and immediate gratification.

Tourists use a selfie stick on the Trocadero Square, with the Eiffel Tower in background, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. Selfie sticks have become enormously popular among tourists because you don’t have to ask strangers to take your picture, and unlike hand-held selfies, you can capture a wider view without showing your arm. But some people find selfie sticks obnoxious, arguing that they detract from the travel experience. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Tourists use a selfie stick on the Trocadero Square, with the Eiffel Tower in background, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. Selfie sticks have become enormously popular among tourists because you don’t have to ask strangers to take your picture, and unlike hand-held selfies, you can capture a wider view without showing your arm. But some people find selfie sticks obnoxious, arguing that they detract from the travel experience. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Even for Pollyannaish me, I immediately realized that Lufthansa was not going to find my cell phone in the messy cabin of a Boeing 747. Maybe it ended up in some flea market along the banks of the Main River.

Hopefully, I still had an upgrade at Verizon Wireless (alas that was not the case). Quickly coming to full acceptance mode, I rationalized there were at least 1,000 worse things that can happen to anyone than just misplacing an uninsured cell phone.

Besides Jeanne and I were on our belated honeymoon. Beer was on the tables in fun München and soon Sangiovese would be served al fresco in romantic Firenze. There were art museums to check out, castles to explore, and little Alpine towns that beckoned us. The cell phone replacement could just wait for our return to bucolic Ellensburg, Washington

Mobile Technology Liberation

What became immediately apparent in my first moments of Apple OS cold turkey was watching the teeming hordes on München’s famed Marienplatz, and coming to the realization about literally how many people were paying more attention to their mobile devices than the centuries worth of history all around them.

What would Mad King Ludwig think? Would smart phone narcissism drive him crazy?

And then I saw them: The narcisticks. Yes, the selfie-sticks. The same selfie-sticks that would be hocked by the bushel on the Ponte Vecchio the following week in Firenze. München’s 11 a.m. Glockenspiel play may be in full motion in the background, but the selfie-stick crowd was more interested in the folks in the foreground – the very same people they saw in the mirror earlier that very same morning.selfiestickobama

Smart phones have become indispensable, but at the same time they are addicting. This point is not novel, but to see it played out throughout Europe at the height of the summer tourist season was nonetheless stunning, revealing and disconcerting.

One week later, we were the first through the doors of the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence. We immediately headed for Michelangelo’s 17-foot masterpiece sculpture of David. Being among the first, we took digital photos of the statue and ourselves in front of David. We concentrated and admired arguably the greatest sculpture on the planet, dating back to 1504.

Coming back later, the crowds predictably had descended on David, including literally hundreds with their mobile phones and selfie sticks (don’t inadvertently scratch the statue!). What would King David think, if he was still around? ‘I fought off Goliath, and I have held this pose for more than 500 years, just to have you take a selfie in front of me?’

Early the next day was the Uffizi Gallery and Botticcelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera. Once again, the early birds caught the worm and we were virtually alone with these 15th Century masterpieces for a few precious minutes. Our relative solitude would soon change as the selfie-stick brigade came charging down the second floor hallway of the Uffizi. Yes, Venus standing on her sea-shell would serve as the mere background for the narcissists in the foreground.

Be sure to smile. Maybe Venus can even be in focus?

Behind the Iron Curtain

A little more than three decades ago, yours truly made his first trip overseas to Leonid Brezhnev’s Russia. PCs were just being mainstreamed by IBM in 1981. There were really no cell phones, let alone selfie sticks. We went into and out of the Soviet Union with no ways to communicate, other than postcards back home or an ultra-expensive KGB monitored phone call from the Intourist hotel.

During the course of this venture and subsequent pleasure and business trips to Europe and Asia, I always tried to concentrate on the dramatic change of scenery, the splendors of the Old World and the different cultures. It was about Russia, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Japan etc., and not about me … and I was fine with that.

The libertarian in me usually gravitates in the direction of personal freedom. At the same time, there is a global movement toward the banning of narcisticks including Disney parks, the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, Mecca, Lake Tahoe and wisely … The Running of the Bulls at Pamplona (great selfie shot before being gored by angry Torro).selfiestickpamplona

Autzen Stadium in Eugene (e.g., “It never rains at Autzen Stadium”) has banned umbrellas. Why? They are potentially dangerous and they block views of Oregon touchdowns. As a 25-year season ticket holder, this ban makes sense. Besides it rarely rains that hard in Oregon.

Prohibiting selfie sticks in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles works for little ole me. According to Travel Advisor Tips, there are “17 grand arched windows facing Palace of Versailles gardens [which] are reflected in the 17 arches inlaid with 357 pieces of mirrors creating the effect of mesmerizing beauty.”

Three-hundred fifty-seven mirrors? Isn’t that enough for even the most dedicated narcissist?

Guess not. How would the narcissist’s friends “like” these pleasing reflections, if they cannot see them online? That simply will not do.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfie_stick

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/sunday-review/what-selfie-sticks-really-tell-us-about-ourselves.html?_r=0

http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2014-11-04/no-selfies-social-media-bans-at-landmarks

http://artdaily.com/news/76962/More-bad-news-for-selfie-stick-lovers–Paris-museums-move-towards-ban-on-sticks#.VdzA3I2FNCo

http://www.traveladvisortips.com/palace-of-versailles-hall-of-mirrors-facts/

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/more-people-killed-selfies-shark-075732332.html#Gh74G2a

 

 

 

 

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